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Book Riot: Dreaming of Personal Reading Analytics

The post originally appeared on Book Riot

Big brother knows what you’re reading….if you read ebooks.

It’s not really a secret that big companies like to collect big data on their customers. Free online services aren’t really free — you pay in personal information — and even services that cost money for often ask for an additional payment of information.

Over the holidays, The New York Times ran an article about new and existing services that track user behavior in while reading ebooks (not one to avoid an alarmist headline the NYT headline noted “ebooks are reading you”). Some of the findings the article included were interesting, if not entirely surprising:

The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all. …

Oyster data shows that readers are 25 percent more likely to finish books that are broken up into shorter chapters. That is an inevitable consequence of people reading in short sessions during the day on an iPhone.

While my initial reaction to reading the story was to toss down my tablet and return to the world of print books as soon as possible, the more I think about, the more excited I am about the idea of collecting my personal reading analytics. And I know I’m not the only one — a recent Book Riot post about strategies for tracking reading has garnered more than 100 comments already.

Right now, it’s pretty easy to keep track of which books I pick up and which books I put down. But wouldn’t it be cool to collect information about the point I quit a book? How quickly I read? Whether chapter length makes a difference in how fast or likely I am to finish a book? Those are data points that are cumbersome to track by hand, but easy to gather and analyze automatically if you are reading electronically.

A really great personal reading analytics program would also be able to pull in information about the books I read — when were they published? What is the author’s gender or race? What genres do I read most or fastest? Combine that with the number of hours spent with audio books and you’d get a fascinating look at an individual’s reading life. Giving up data can be a little scary, but this is one area where I think it would be worth it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ciska @ Ciska's Book Chest January 15, 2014, 7:27 am

    Love this post. I must admit I would not mind either if there was something that would keep all these details for me. I love checking my reading stats and there are numerous ways but I always have to fill in these details and eventually stop doing it. Curious how far it will come!

    • Kim January 15, 2014, 8:24 pm

      I love my year-end stats, but a lot of them come from a spreadsheet I have to fill out which I sometimes get lazy about. I’d love to make it more automated.

  • Cindie @ Nonfictionado January 15, 2014, 1:50 pm

    For some reason I don’t care as much about companies seeing my reading data as opposed to, say, what restaurants I ate at. I’m not sure where the line between being fine and being too invasive is, but I’d really enjoy the sort of analytics you are talking about for my reading habits! I’m big on data at work, and this year one of my goals is to be better at collecting data about my own habits (yes, that means I do have a spreadsheet keeping track of clothes I buy and get rid of). If a website could do the book bit for me, that would give me time to focus on other things.

    • Kim January 15, 2014, 8:25 pm

      The lines we all have about our data are different. There are things I don’t mind, like reading habits, and things like you mentioned that I’d had for people to know. Goodreads done a decent job with some stats, but not as many as I’d really like.

  • Jennine G. January 15, 2014, 3:35 pm

    Interesting. I’d find it more interesting to know about myself, but don’t think any big company needs the info! Lol

    Btw, is there a way to get your blog posts sent to my email? I follow much better that way. If so, let me know!

    • Kim January 15, 2014, 8:27 pm

      Yes, there is — I thought I still had that up near RSS but it must have gotten removed at some point… sorry about that! You can do that here:

      Enter your email address:

      Delivered by FeedBurner

  • Words for Worms January 15, 2014, 8:43 pm

    Oh man, the idea of all that delicious data is such a nerdgasm!

  • Belle Wong January 15, 2014, 10:52 pm

    When I read that NYT article, I was so surprised that many readers would actually jump to the end of a mystery if it’s long in order to find out who did it. I wouldn’t mind knowing what keeps me reading – right now I’m reading two novels which are out of my usual genre-zones and I’m really enjoying both of them. And I’m not sure why! I don’t know if a reading analytics program would be able to tell me that, though …

    • Kim January 16, 2014, 6:57 pm

      I was a little surprised by that too, but then as I was reading a book today I found myself flipping ahead to the ends of chapters to see where I was going. So, interesting!

  • Kailana January 16, 2014, 10:30 am

    I would love to know more about my reading. I start at the beginning of the year keeping track of some things, but I usually fizzle as the year goes… I also don’t keep track of books I put down. I should!

    • Kim January 16, 2014, 6:57 pm

      I don’t track abandoned books either. I’d love to have better stats on that!

  • Jeanne January 16, 2014, 10:49 am

    Ugh. I don’t want to know any of this, which is strange, because I’ve always said I wanted to know everything. Perhaps it’s curmudgeonliness coming on.

    • Kim January 16, 2014, 6:58 pm

      It’s a little uncomfortable to know that to get data for free you have to give up that data to a third party, definitely.

  • Care January 16, 2014, 6:46 pm

    I was just complaining about Amazon AND goodreads recommending books to me that I’ve already read/purchased. So maybe they still have some tweeks to do or I’ve managed to mystify them.

    • Kim January 16, 2014, 6:58 pm

      Mysterious! I get strange recommendations from Amazon most of the time, but I don’t pay much attention to them anymore.

  • Jenny @ Reading the End January 17, 2014, 8:42 pm

    I have such mixed feelings about this data collection. The statistics nerd side of me loves the idea of having SO MUCH DATA to go through — think of all the things you can learn from that! — and the very private person side of me hates it. I think statistics nerd is going to win. I just can’t resist the thought of being able to know more and more about what and how people read.

  • Jennifer January 19, 2014, 2:42 pm

    This is an interesting idea and topic. I’m always a little skiddish when I feel like my privacy is being taken from me. But then I think about the ways in which giving out certain pieces of data actually improves my life in some way. Even more, I would definitely be fascinated to look at my reading life in terms of data. I haven’t ever been very good about really tracking my reading habits to analyze them. I definitely wish I was more organized and could do this. I know I’m capable of it, I just always get carried away with other (seemingly) more pressing matters. Still, I find myself wishing I knew more about my own subconscious reading tendencies so I could challenge myself to read a more eclectic selection of books.